SALT - Tuesday, 28 Adar 5780 - March 24, 2020

  • Rav David Silverberg
            One of the sacrifices discussed in Parashat Vayikra is the special sin-offering required when a kohen gadol mistakenly commits a grave transgression.  The kohen gadol in such a case must offer a bull, whose blood is collected and then sprinkled on the incense altar inside the Beit Ha-mikdash.  Certain portions of the animal are placed on the main altar in the Temple courtyard, and the rest of the animal is burned outside the Beit Ha-mikdash.
            In discussing the procedure after slaughtering the animal, the Torah commands that the kohen gadol must “take from the bull’s blood” – “ve-lakach…mi-dam ha-par” (4:5).  At first glance, this means that only some of the sacrificial blood needs to be collected.  However, the Gemara in Masekhet Zevachim (25a) understood this verse to mean that when an animal sacrifice is slaughtered, all its blood must be collected in a basin.  Although the verse speaks of collecting “mi-dam ha-par” (“from the bull’s blood”), which seems to suggest that only some of the blood must be collected, in truth, the Gemara says, this phrase should be read as though it says, “dam mi-par” – “blood from the bull.”  The meaning of this phrase is that the blood is collected only directly from the bull; if some blood spilled to the ground, then it is not collected from the ground.  Although this command is formulated “mi-dam ha-par,” which suggests that only a portion of the blood must be collected, it should be understood as “dam mi-par” – that all the blood must be collected, but only if it can be collected directly from the animal.
            The obvious question arises as to why the Torah would formulate this instruction differently than the way it is to be understood.  If the intent was that all the blood should be collected from the bull, then why didn’t the Torah simply state, “dam mi-par” (or “ha-dam min ha-par”)?
            Rav Yaakov Mecklenberg, in his Ha-ketav Ve-ha-kabbala, suggests that the Torah chose the formulation “mi-dam ha-par” in order to allude that if only some of the blood was collected, the sacrifice is nevertheless valid.  The Rambam, in Hilkhot Pesulei Ha-mukdashin (1:26), writes that if some of the blood spilled on the ground, and thus could not be collected, then the sacrifice remains valid, as long as some blood was collected directly from the animal.  As the Kesef Mishneh explains, the Rambam understood that the requirement to collect all the animal’s blood applies only le-chatekhila – optimally, and is not indispensable to the sacrifice’s validity.  Alternatively, the Kesef Mishneh suggests, the Rambam may have understood that the requirement to collect all the animal’s blood refers to all the available blood, to the exclusion of the blood which fell to the ground.  Regardless, the Rambam explicitly rules that a sacrifice is valid even if some blood was not collected.  Rav Mecklenberg thus suggests that the Torah formulated its instruction with the phrase “mi-dam ha-par,” which appears to require collecting only a portion of the blood.  Although in truth the Torah requires collecting all the blood, the requirement is formulated this way to indicate that after the fact, even the collection of a portion of the blood suffices to fulfill the obligations of the sacrifice.